HAMBURG, Germany – Usama bin Laden spoke months before the Sept. 11 attacks of a strike against the United States and said there would be "thousands of dead," a Jordanian-born man who says he served briefly as the Al Qaeda leader's bodyguard testified Tuesday.
Shadi Abdellah, 28, took the stand at the retrial of Mounir el Motassadeq (search), a Moroccan accused of helping the Sept. 11 hijackers when they lived and studied in Hamburg.
"Bin Laden said he wanted to fight the Americans," said Abdellah, who spent time at an Al Qaeda training camp near Kandahar.
In early 2001, he said, "Bin Laden spoke in a speech of an attack against the United States and said there would be thousands of dead."
Abdellah says he was one of bin Laden's bodyguards for about two weeks at the beginning of a stay in Afghanistan that lasted from early 2000 to May 2001. His testimony echoed evidence he gave at el Motassadeq's first trial two years ago. He said bin Laden gave no details, and added that specific attacks or plans were not discussed at the camp.
"When there was an attack, we weren't told," said Abdellah, who spoke in Arabic through an interpreter. "They just said to us, 'pray for your brothers.'"
Abdellah said he had seen el Motassadeq twice at the Afghan camp in 2000 — "once at mealtime and once during a speech by bin Laden."
"I didn't speak with him — I just saw him at the camp," Abdellah said. He said he had seen el Motassadeq together with Ramzi Binalshibh (search), the suspected liaison between Al Qaeda and the three Hamburg-based Sept. 11 hijackers.
El Motassadeq has said that he went to an Afghan camp, but denied meeting bin Laden.
Abdellah is serving a four-year prison sentence after a Duesseldorf (search) court last year found him guilty of helping to plot attacks on Jewish targets in Germany for a cell of the Al Tawhid terror group of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Four other suspected cell members are now being tried in the same court.
El Motassadeq is charged with more than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder and membership in a terrorist organization. He has acknowledged knowing Hamburg-based hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah, but says he was unaware of their plot.
The 30-year-old was convicted and sentenced to the maximum 15 years in prison in February 2003.
But in March, an appeals court overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial, ruling that he was unfairly denied evidence from Al Qaeda suspects in U.S. custody, including Binalshibh. The retrial opened in August.